The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

Perhaps not all talk

NHS Improvement chair Baroness Dido Harding is getting a reputation for going around saying some strong stuff about her own organisation and how poor management and leadership is in the NHS.

Her vocalising is refreshing and, things like the annual NHS staff survey suggest, spot on.

Now she has gone one step further. While being quizzed by the Commons health committee on Tuesday, she indicated she may support some form of professional regulation for senior NHS managers.

Such a suggestion might be more than just talk and may have serious implications – the government has, after all, put Baroness Harding in charge of responding to the recommendations made by Tom Kark QC from his recent report on the fit and proper persons test.

Baroness Harding also told MPs she believed culture in the NHS was “rotten”. She’ll need to show she is getting to work on turning this around, as well as highlighting it so vocally and publicly.

More well-timed words

As so often with Sir Mike Richards’ remarks, his latest are very well timed.

At HSJ’s inaugural cancer forum, the previous cancer tsar said capital budgets meant for diagnostic machines had been continually “raided” to prop up trust revenues.

He said, as a result, the NHS has been left with “woefully poor” diagnostic kit, with MRI and CT scanners well at the bottom of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development league table.

It’s not a surprise Sir Mike is making a plea now for more capital spend on scanners, as he is looking at the issue of diagnostic capacity as part of his national review of screening programmes.

Although he would not be led on any conclusions he has come to, with his interim report due in April, he will no doubt have already formed strong views on how reliable NHS equipment is.

His thoughts followed on from an HSJ story which revealed Barts Health Trust was forced to cancel hundreds of MRI scans when its equipment broke down after “historic underinvestment”.

The true scale of underinvestment across England is not clear but, given Sir Mike’s concerns, it is very plausible the problem Barts faced may be one other trusts are battling.

As one reader of the Barts story commented: “Hands up how many people saw the headline and thought, ‘is it us?’ This headline could have been written about almost any trust in the land.”